Guantanamo Detainees in Colorado? State Leaders React

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Some Western Slope lawmakers are reacting after Governor Bill Ritter's recent comments saying he would support moving detainees from Guantanamo Bay to a federal prison in Colorado.

Soon after taking the Oath of Office, President Obama issued an executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within a year.

"There was sort of this push to close Guantanamo Bay," said State Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, (R) Fruita. "But no one really answered the question, if not there, where?"

It's a possible answer to that question that has several state lawmakers worried. The Obama Administration is considering transferring terrorism suspects from Guantanamo to the Super Max Prison in Florence, CO. This week, Governor Ritter said he would support the move if asked -- the only state governor to do so.

"I was taken aback by the suggestion that somehow Colorado would be eager to host what amounts to the worst of the worst," said Penry.

After taking heat from state lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, Ritter is defending his position.

"I don't think it's appropriate for someone like me, first of all, who has supported the President's decision here to say now not in my backyard, find other places for those individuals to go," said Governor Ritter. "Particularly when we have a facility that's so well suited."

Some leaders, like Florence Mayor Bart Hall, agree.

"There's probably not a more secure place in the nation," said Hall.

But others feel differently, saying Super Max is under staffed and already filled to the brim. On top of that, they say bringing suspected terrorists there could put a bulls eye on Colorado.

"I hope the Governor won't do the new President a favor at the expense of the people of the state," said Penry.

A spokesperson for the Governor said one of the military prisons the Obama Administration is also considering is a more likely choice than Super Max. Penry says before that choice is made, he hopes state leaders will unite and send the message that suspected terrorists aren't welcome in Colorado.

"There's a reason we have a remote location to store the really bad people in this world," said Penry.

The Obama Administration is also considering transferring detainees to prisons in California, South Carolina, and Kansas. The Governor of Kansas, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, recently said she opposes any effort to bring detainees to her state.

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